Preparations

Sunset from Clingman's Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee.
Sunset from Clingman’s Dome Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee.

Though I have been thinking and dreaming for a while about a doing a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, I didn’t ever really think it would become a reality. Then, the topic came up again and I decided to talk it over with Bud (my husband). I was very surprised at how supportive he was of the idea. The option of him hiking with me is out due to his knee problems. One thing led to another, and he said, “Well, better to do it sooner, rather than later.” So…here I am, planning for my 2016 thru-hike! He has been incredibly encouraging.

In the last two weeks I have spent a great amount of time researching gear on the Internet. I am (of course) trying to keep costs down as much as possible. Though it is important for all hikers to keep their pack weight low, I feel like it’s imperative that I, especially, keep the weight down since I am built so small. Unfortunately, lighter gear is usually more expensive. Bud has budgeted money for my gear (based on what others have said gear will cost.) The figure I have seen estimated was around $2,000. I’m hoping to keep it much lower than that, while not sacrificing quality (or low weight) too much.

Living out in the sticks does not leave me with a lot of options to get gear, other than ordering online. For my shoes, I have decided to go with ‘trail runners’ rather than traditional hiking boots. I have ordered, and had to return THREE PAIRS of trail runners due to them being too small (mostly just not wide enough.) That has been very frustrating. So far, I have tried:

Keen Targhee II WP Hiking Shoes

Zamberlan 130 SH Crosser GTX RR Hiking Shoes

Salomon Women’s XR Mission Running Shoes

All of these are just too narrow, and even if I ordered a size up, they would STILL be too narrow and would probably slip on the heel. Since walking is all I am going to be doing on the hike, it’s important that I get a shoe that fits right. I am thinking about giving up on ordering shoes online. You can just never tell if a shoe is going to be wide enough without trying them on, unless they are sold in widths (and very few seem to be.) Postage to return things that don’t fit is too expensive. It was around $15.00 to return one pair of shoes! Sorry to sound like I am complaining, but I am in shock. I think I am going to drive to Little Rock (almost a three hour drive one way). It’s the closest place that will have a decent choice of hiking shoes, clothes and gear.

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Copper Spur 2  (Photo courtesy of rei.com)

I ordered my tent, a Big Agnes Copper Spur I. It is an ultra-light tent. I got a great deal on it on Amazon. It was so easy to set up, and was, indeed, very light! Then, the other day, I saw that REI had their Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 (a 2 person tent) for only $5 dollars more than I paid for the one-person version, and the weight was not all that much more. It will give me more room, should I want to keep my gear inside the tent. Also, if Bud wants to go with me on a pre-thru-hike trip to try it out, we can both fit in the tent. If the Copper Spur 2 turns out to be as great as I think it is, I will return the Copper Spur I.

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(Photo courtesy of Rei.com)

I have also ordered and received my backpack. It is an REI Flash Pack 58. It is an internal frame, lightweight pack. It was on sale, it was blue (my favorite color) and it had some great reviews. I also like that it has so many outside pockets. I hope it will serve me well!

I have been walking here at home as much as I possibly can. We are in the Ozark Mountains here, so there are plenty of hills to help get me into shape. I bought a pedometer which tells me how many steps I take, how many miles I travel, how many calories I am burning and how many MPH I am walking. Pretty cool. I have been doing 5-6 miles at a time, but not every day.

It is surreal to think that this time next year I will be thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. It’s all I think about lately and I’m so excited I’m about ready to bust!

~Arkansas Traveler~

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